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October 2002
BlueCross BlueShield is a big name in the in-plant world, with dozens of shops serving its many offices around the country. We spoke with several of them to find out why BCBS values its in-plants so much.

By MIKE LLEWELLYN &012;If you were to look at a list of all the in-plants in the country, one name would pop up more than any other: BlueCross BlueShield.

Because BCBS is not centrally operated, each "Blue Plan," as employees call the independent companies in the network, must produce its own marketing materials, explanations of benefits (EOBs), brochures and internal correspondence. Thus, many BCBS Blue Plans have set up in-plants.

The managers that operate these facilities all over the country say there are many reasons in-plants are such an attractive alternative to outsourcing printing for BCBS.

"We're right on site, so turnaround is much quicker than commercial printers," says Cindy Larson, director of the Output Facility at BCBS of Minnesota. With 80 employees, her St. Paul operation is the largest BCBS in-plant in the country.

Sandy McFarland, of Anthem BlueCross BlueShield of Colorado and Nevada, agrees with Larson.

"With us, turnaround can be as little as five minutes, or a few days, depending," she says. "But I think we've got a true vested interest in the health of the company, and in the quality of what we produce."

McFarland's in-plant made IPG headlines a few years ago after the company dumped the outsourcing firm it had brought in to replace the in-plant and restarted its own print shop—with very successful results.

"Plus, you're dealing with people's health care," continues Larson. "So security is a very high priority for upper management."

She feels that because her shop prints so much private health information, the company feels compelled to print everything in-house.

While security and convenience are certainly important, the decision to host an in-plant facility is ultimately an economic one for each BCBS location.

Maxine Glass, manager of Regence BlueCross in Oregon, says that cost effectiveness is, by far, the leading factor in the popularity of in-plants among BCBS network companies.

"We do a cost justification every year," she says. "Most of the time, we can show the company that they're saving between 30 and 60 percent over what they would be spending had they chosen to send the work to a commercial printer."

Larson concurs.

"Having an in-plant on site just lowers prices," she says. "And we can customize the work to suit our customers' needs much more easily than a commercial printer can."
 

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